The world has entered tough times. In the words of the Italian thinker, politician and socialist theorist Antonio Gramsci, “interregnum” (the time during which a throne is vacant between two successive reigns or regimes) has created a chaotic international system.

The world economy, which has become more dependent than ever before in history, also deeply affects international politics. This also marks a serious transformation.

It needn’t say that “great power competition” has taken a new form in this context. The new competition, experienced at a more “hybrid” level rather than a classic cold war, rapidly moving towards the new normal with the US-China relations.

In this new normal, which is defined as the new Cold War, there are certain fronts where the two powers face each other. Perhaps the most prominent of these fronts is Taiwan.

While China defines Taiwan as an indivisible part of the mainland, the US perceives Taiwan as a forward “outpost” in Asia-Pacific that it can use against China.

There were even American generals in the past who described Taiwan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” (Douglas MacArthur).

U.S. President Joe Biden’s statement recently that “We will defend Taiwan if China attacks Taiwan” has made the Taiwan chaos even more chaotic.

 

China's Taiwan discourse

China's Taiwan discourse has been fortified with an increasing dose of nationalism, especially recently.

While it is underlined that the military exercises, which are increasing in number around Taiwan, are "routine" activities, the moves of other states, especially the USA, are perceived as an intervention in "internal affairs".

Taiwanese officials suggest that China might carry out a "full-scale" invasion of their country by 2025. The Pentagon (United States Department of Defense) argues a similar thesis

Since the beginning of October, the intense entry of Chinese Army warplanes into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) has excited the supporters of the thesis.

China's basic approach to Taiwan is based on the peaceful reunification of Taiwan with the mainland within a certain period of time.

As former Chinese President Mao Zedong once said to US diplomat Henry Kissinger, “five, fifty or five hundred years…” it doesn't matter. The important thing is that Taiwan unites with the mainland, as in Hong Kong, when the time comes.

It doesn't make sense for China to allow the status quo to deteriorate at a time when the economy is so heavily dependent on politics. More precisely, it is not possible to foresee that the move that will disrupt the status quo will come from China.

China's violations of Taiwan's airspace and other military actions are mostly aimed at "changing their diplomatic positions in Taiwan and Washington" forcing Taiwan and the United States to return to the One-China policy framework.

By the same token, the force aiming to occupy the island needs to build it on a surprise attack tactic. However, China's practices are not geared towards such a goal.

At this conjuncture, it is the USA and its Anglo-Saxon allies who are stretching the status quo and forcing the region with regional security pacts such as AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States).

 

US’ strategic uncertainty

It should be carefully noted that shortly after US President Biden's commitment by the US to defend Taiwan against China, the White House announced that there was no change in policy towards Taiwan.

Because the US approach to Taiwan is based on the blurry model, which it describes as "strategic uncertainty". Therefore, the USA, like China, is in favour of preserving the ongoing status quo in the region.

The "Taiwan Relations Act" guides the US relationship with Taiwan. The commitment under the law can be summarized as continuing to support Taiwan's self-defence and opposing any unilateral change in the status quo.

While many experts call Biden's statement a "blunder", they say Washington's commitment to defend Taiwan is "officially not entirely correct".

The confusion experienced by the US over Taiwan weakens US deterrence, which has been an important factor in Taiwan until now. Kurt Campbell, who is responsible for the regional policies of the USA, also thinks that it is useless to act within the framework of "strategic clarity".

 

Will the US and China war over Taiwan?

The main issue with Taiwan is whether the USA and China will go to war over the island.

Increasing geopolitical and technological competition, the international system entering into indecision (entropy), and the emergence of blocks that tend to act within the concept of the cold war, albeit blurry, increase the possibility of war.

In such an environment, sparks over Taiwan may cause unpredictable results.

The escalating military exercises of China and the crystallization of the US efforts to secure the region in the discourse of AUKUS and Taiwan also deepen the tense atmosphere.

However, despite all the findings, it is more likely to say that they will continue this fierce competition for both countries within a hybrid cold war concept.

An interesting word was chosen in the statement made after a recent meeting between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi: “Responsible competition”.

We can say that the USA and China will push the boundaries of the hybrid cold war on Taiwan, but will reject the possibility of a hot war by acting within the logic of "responsible competition". This will open the door to the Taiwan Strait crises, which have been similar in history.

Given all of this, it is reasonable to say that the deadlock that may occur in the region may lead to a crisis.

It may be helpful to finish the article by asking some questions:

Can the United States, risk a possible nuclear war with China by attempting to intervene in the Taiwan issue, as Biden said?

Could China, which has modernized its military capacity, think that the appropriate global conjuncture has been formed for Taiwan's reunification with the mainland?

All in all, the Taiwan issue is one of the key issues. It is not known whether it will turn into a crisis or a hot war, but it is a clear reality that China will never compromise on Taiwan.

 

Note: This article previously was published in Turkish on 25.10.2021.